Of The Future George Orwell Wrote About

I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 years ago, back when the words freedom and free speech, to me simply meant freedom to choose who would accompany me to school at the beginning of the school term and freedom of expression meant in an literature exam, the only wrong answer was to leave blank where an answer should have been, some answers scored more points than others but all of them were correct.

I find it, lets call it interesting to note how books published almost 7 decades ago seem to be about the totalitarian states of today and the need to control the narratives

“Do not believe anything,you see or hear, especially on the internet, believe only what we tell you”

In the wake of violent protest, an internet shutdown and a military blitz, which the state blamed on “rouge elements” who wore stolen military Sky News reporter John Sparks did a report which showed security forces beating a handcuffed man

The President’s official Twitter account issued the following response:

And a bit later in the state newspaper, the Secretary For Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services was reported saying how the country is under coordinated media attack and that the Sky News team were not accredited to be reporting on events in Zimbabwe and had not given the police or army a chance to respond

Zim under coordinted media attack

Later still, during a press conference the police spokeswoman had a chance to respond on the Sky News report, that their investigations showed the footage was from an incident in July 2016 and further investigations were underway….

The Sky News team stood by their story

Clearly someone was definitely telling “altenative facts” state media, government officials, the police or an unaccredited news team?

Further scrutiny of the video by “analysts” showed two distinct telltale signs

  • The registration particulars of vehicle which passes in camera range shows it to have a registration number sequence which could not have been reached in 2016 since the central vehicle registry follows a sequential system
  • A plain clothed officer wearing the Chelsea FC Third Kit for the season 2017/2018
Chelsea Third kit 2017-18

Without actually acknowledging making an about turn the police released a new statement which cited a police officer was arrested for misconduct

This story is simply a tip of the iceberg, but it does leave one questioning everything; can we believe anything, if there’s no truth where do transparency and accountability even begin……

The internet and social media might be a hot bed of fake news, cyber bullying and all manner of misinformation and anti social behaviour, but with it the future from the book 1984 might not necessarily have to be an instruction manual….

Newspeak

Of Coffee, the internet and the truth

mango juice

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you its still mango season, and we blending them into juice. I’ll even tell you a lil twist, throw in a banana into the mixture and surprise your taste buds.

If you were having coffee with me, I would ask your opinion on the internet if it had done more harm than good, to the fabric of the world; if world governments could or should ban or restrict access to some of it?

I watched a BBC report about how social media use is linked to an increase in depression and teen suicide. The UK government is considering taking legislative measures against social media companies if they do not purge harmful content from their sides.

Ban social media

The crazy weird thing is sometimes the harder you try to purge something the more you sensationalize it. There was this game, targeting vulnerable teens, that trended in some circles early last year, challenging them to do tasks which would ultimately lead to suicides; I dont know if anyone else noticed that the more people actually gave out details warning people to not play the game, the more people actually sought out the challenge….

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you, thats the thing with social media and the internet, news spreads like veld fire. Are more people commiting suicide or more people hearing about it cause of social media or maybe both. Simply banning the social media will not fix anything whats broken inside some people….

suicide

Coming back to home, our government ordered an internet shutdown, as it was blamed for the violent protest and later the internet was restored but partially with restrictions to social media sites. A constitutional court ruling later ordered full internet services be restored on the technicality that only the president would have had the authority to issue such a directive and not a minister and that was that, but still leaves loop holes in the constitutionality of ordering internet shutdowns, this wont be last the time it happens…..

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that its open season at the fake news factory; its really difficult to know whats happening especially when even the official information channels contradictory and entirely whole accounts of whats happening.

A hoax message went viral about how people using VPNs to access the internet were being investigated by the police, till the police had to issue out a statement that they were doing no such thing.

If you having coffee with me I would tell you I wrote a post with ten simple ways you can use to check if something is fake news, Stop Reflect Verify so you can share responsibly

While the internet was down the were untold cases of atrocious violations to men, women and children, by people dressed as security agents which never made the news. The government attributed some of these acts to “rouge elements

Sky News broke the story of security forces in Zimbabwe beating a man

The president’s official twitter account shared an excellent and decisive response to this news story but what has me worried is that, the are so many other things that havent been responded to, the state broadcaster carries on as its business as usual.

Do we have to wait until news makes international headlines for it to be true? When you have so many people desperate for news any news about whats going thats a perfect breeding ground for fake news…..

According to The Herald, a local newspaper Zim is under a co-ordinated media attack and that SkyNews is not accredited to operate in Zimbabwe and their report is unbalanced…

Zim under co-ordinated attack

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that for now its calm, but its that uneasy calm and everytime I see a group of police officers or soldiers, I feel a slight panic coming on, like maybe I am somewhere I should not be or doing something I should not be doing, or perhaps I wrote something I shouldnt have (hang on a second while I reread this post)

Well thanks for dropping by, I hope you have an awesome week, whats your truth?

~B

PS We lost a legendary musician and icon Oliver Mtukudzi and the other post I have been writing is in honour of Samanyanga

Oliver mtukudzi a life well lived a life worth celebrating

Of Fake News: Stop, Reflect and Verify

In this new digital age of internet, instant messaging and social media, the insidious culture of misinformation and alternate fact has not only taken root but grown into the full fledged scourge of Fake News.

What is Fake News?

Fake news loosely refers to misleading, deceptive or even down right false information, peddled as a propaganda campaign or even a clickbait gimmick to attract visitors to sites, sometimes for “fairly harmless” reasons and pranks, in the pursuit for internet notoriety, publicity and traffic, other times for more sinister deliberate motives.

How can it be curbed?

Its both ridiculously easy and mind-bogglingly difficult, especially as fake news is propagated unknowingly; maybe you have even unwittingly shared fake news to your group or circles, if we all made a conscious effort to

Stop; before you press that forward button

Reflect; on the information

Verify; if its true

….. always share responsibly

Share responsibly

The next thing you share could just cause the death of someone, that’s how serious the consequences of fake news can get or be the spark to an already volatile situation, are you sure its true?

How to spot fake news:
1. Read beyond the article headlines
Some articles carry misleading or sensational titles and images as click-baits, the article content and its title might actually be worlds apart.

2. Check the source
Where did you get this article or information from, does it originate from the official site/source or one which you can trust? Check again, fake news peddlers can copy logos and colours of the reliable sources or even photoshop articles onto screenshots of from verified profiles. If in doubt don’t forward it or at least let whom you are sharing with know its unverified and not just quick to say breaking news

3. Check the author
After considering where you got the article consider who wrote it, are they reliable, or verified, making sure it really is from whom it says its from, similar to the source above

4. Look for supporting facts
Check if any credible sources support it, go ahead break the internet but its not your job to break the news, especially if you have not done the due diligence.

5. Check the dates
Something as simple as checking when an article was published could have change the context completely

6. Check Images
Some people share file footage as current and that’s when Google image reverse search is your friend, it can scout images on the internet for you

7. Determine who the audience is?
No one just writes open-endedly, there is always a target audience and a reason. Check to see if the article is not meant to simply trigger a response or manipulate you in a particular way, it might be meant to be a joke or satire

8. Ask the experts
Have go to people you can ask or verify with, even the traditional media houses issue updates on their social pages

9. Know the different types of content
Knowing if a publication is fact, opinion piece, a paid review, rumours, satire, or even fiction it will help put things into perspective.

10. Acquaint yourself with the fact checking services
The are various fact checking sites on the interweb such as

africacheck.org 

zimfact.org

You think you can spot misleading stories? try this quiz with general and Kenya-specific examples

~B

PS here’s my score I #pledge to #stopReflectVerify before sharing responsibly

You know your way around the internet and social media. You can resist the urge to forward or share a post as received

Photocredits: Stop Reflect and Verify YaliNetwork

Of Mainstream Media: is it dying?

Is Mainstream Media dying…. And did The New Media deal it a mortal blow?

Is Journalism dying, killed by social media
“The Medium has compromised The Media”

A sound-bite from Takura Zhangazha whilst speaking on the role The Media on the upcoming Zimbabwean Presidential elections and part of an analysis of previous 2013 elections, at a Medial Alliance of Zimbabwe conference; where it was noted there has been a marked increase in social media usage and citizen journalism. He defined The Medium as being tools, technology; the internet social media……..

Well one cannot lay blame on tools, they say “guns don’t kill people…. ” (but then who ever came up with that phrase was from a time before anyone ever imagined someone would invent drones and weaponise them or the strides in Artificial Intelligence; before the future spelt out in Hollywood movies was even remotely possible, the machines rise…. but I digress)

Corrupted Media

The DNA of The New Media

Mainstream media has had gaps in its coverage, marginalising some aspects in favour of profitable stories, political mileage and sometimes simply some sort of principle and code. These gaps have been filled by new media; which allows for diverse practitioners to exploit the ease at which information spreads, (going viral), abiding by almost no code, ungoverned and ungovernable, algorithms defining trending topics; requiring little or no verification; mostly for the likes; shares retweets, the real time interaction and the entertainment value…

Social Media can break the news before almost any media house, first with the news, because anyone anywhere with a smartphone and an internet connection is a pseudo-journalist…

When traditional media houses try to out-compete new media, they wind up losing their journalistic integrity, (and their credibility). Is it a surprise no one takes mainstream media seriously anymore, not pointing any fingers, but when a head of state takes to social medal  to label a media house as fake news………

If traditional media houses treat new media and online content creation as their “unscrupulous” competition whom they need to fight for their place in the sun then …… mainstream media will die.

The herald

The logic makes sense; but in this age of The Internet Of Things, where even your fridge can go online; this is how you lose a battle with new media. You leave a space and someone or something will take your place; like a game musical chairs when the music stops, you find your seat has been taken……. You are Out.

online piracy

Piracy/plagiarism is a real problem and another challenge all together. I have Google searched and found snippets of my words unattributed to me, it hurts…. I mean if you ask me nicely I would let you, so long as you referenced back to me, is that too much to ask for? When a solution comes do let me know.

Traditional media houses need to adapt and embrace more of the new media; define new guidelines and core values with regards to interacting with social media instead of treating it as an amusing spectacle like children running around in adults clothes pretending to be journalists; useful only to get hits and views. It is an instrument a powerful one, capable of transforming the world as we know it, but a tool’s is utility just like any weapon is dependent on its wielder.

Evian babies wearing oversized clothes

RESPECT

The main problem with social media is “the proliferation of fake news” a phrase I have heard over and over again. But it’s mostly a matter of user education, people must need to learn a culture of not spreading unverified information or at least questioning and cross-checking facts. Sometimes even a quick Google Search could prove to you that a celebrity is not dead or how today is a not a unique day whose star alignment will not happen again in the next 456321 million years…..

Maybe that’s what mainstream media has to do; apply expert skill-set to interpret trends, analysing stories and issues raised in new media packaging them in the way they should be, debunking fake news and harnessing the potential reach of online influencers; reviewing new media the way it already reviews traditional publishing houses. On social media everyone to a degree is a social commentator or analyst adding their two cents to the narrative and with elections coming up, that space is going to be real chaotic  real fast in a way that could change electoral process dynamics.

If I owned a media house…………….

~B

 

Photo Credit: Evian Water Babies Digital Agency Network

 

Of Covfefe With Me

Covfefe Title.jpg

If you were having covfefe with me, you would be asking me whether there was a typo in my title and if not; what type of beverage is covfefe? Well I can assure you, there is no typo and that you can not buy it from your local coffee shop.

I don’t think you can buy at from anywhere, for now, but I am sure if you give it a bit of time, in a couple days, some barista somewhere will be serving you rainbow covfefe which looks like the sun set in it with an olive skewered by a toothpick bobbing around leisurely.

Covfefe nobody knows what it means but it’s provocative…

It all started because President of the United States tweeted the following:

Donald.jpg

And the free world went crazy trying to figure out if it was a simple typo, (Twitter really really needs an edit button) or if his Excellency (that’s how we refer to our president) suffered anything from a heart attack, a brain seizure to tweeting in his sleep; some say he was overwhelmed by the sudden urge to have coffee in the middle of tweeting and its certainly something that happens to beerst of us

**pause to sip beer**

Where were we; oh yes and some are convinced it was a clandestine message understood by only a few elite; a conspiracy theory of Robert Ludlum meets John le Carré proportions; involving multinational agent provocateurs and maybe even aliens…

Covfefe Identity.jpgSeveral hours later the curious tweet got DELETED and replaced with the one below:

Meaning of Covfefe.jpg

And then there was Hillary:

Hillary.jpg

Its all much ado about cofveve….., it still hasn’t quite been defined yet but I am pretty sure before the year ends the word will exist in the updated dictionary. Why wouldn’t it be; if emoticons can make it; The tears of joy emoji was oxford the word of the year 2015

face-with-tears-of-joy-1

So far the Webster’s dictionary has no words for it….

But here is a few choice definition from The Urban Dictionary:

Urban.jpg

If you were having covfefe with me; I would tell you that you ought to be careful what you post on social media, the internet is unforgiving, and it never forgets…. (and people take screenshots)

I wonder if he had caught a vision of the future; when he transcribed and sent the first Morse Code message, Samuel Morse upon completion of his invention The Telegraph;

“What Hath God Wrought?”

Indeed; because if you were having covfefe with me, I would ask you, why do people revel in starting and spreading Fake News; where they not hugged enough as babies?

And it doesn’t help that we seem so eager to share we find without pausing for a second to verify, maybe its because I am a storyteller and as we say “the storyteller never lies”  we may get creative with the narrative, embellishing the tale with condiments of a good story…..  but see that’s why we have disclaimers….. and that’s why the only story I believe is the one I am telling….

Today is the first of June, Happy New Month…

If you were having covfefe with me; I would tell you I  got forwarded the following message by five different people in my contact list who are totally unrelated… maybe you have received it too:

IMG-20170531-WA0000.jpg

 

It’s a cute message, isn’t it? but, I didn’t forward it to anyone and why….

Certainly not because I would not have been unique in being a copy and paste…

today is 152nd day of the year the are still 215 days left in the year.

This greeting is a month too early

What if I had forwarded it to every one of my contacts and they forward it to each of their contacts, and suddenly you have a whole bunch of misinformed people…. This is exactly how fake news thrives and spreads, we blindly accept what read, we will learn eventually …. in the words of Mad-Eye Moody to his Defence Against Dark Arts class “Constant Vigilance

 

So long and thanks for all the Covfefe

~B